Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, has defended the increase in hate speech fine from N500,000 to N5 million.
Shehu, during his appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Wednesday, said the initial penalty for hate speech was not being respected .
Nigerians have condemned the move by the federal government to increase the fine, saying it is an attempt to gag them.
The presidential aide defended the invitation of Obadiah Mailafia by the Department of State Services (DSS) over his recent comments on the Boko Haram insurgency.
“This is Nigeria; this is not Mali … Is this the first time the Department of State Service is inviting people for questioning?
“When somebody claiming to be a responsible citizen makes such a claim as Obadiah Mailafia did, saying that a governor is a commander for Boko Haram and he shouldn’t be asked questions, so what kind of society do we want?” Shehu asked.
The DSS had invited Mailafia, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on two occasions, and grilled over his claims on a radio programme, that the insurgents in the North-east are under the command of a northern governor.
This sparked a public outcry and calls for investigations, while the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) imposed a sanction of N5 million on the station over what it called unprofessional broadcast.
Shehu took a swipe at those criticising the DSS over Mailafia’s invitation.
According to him, people find it difficult to adhere to the laws of the country, when they are compelled to be law-abiding in foreign nations.
“We are living in a country of people who will go to the UK and America and obey all the laws and in our country, when there is enforcement, they start crying… so, what is political about it?”
“As for the increase in the charge against hate speech, perhaps it’s the assessment of the minister,” Shehu said.
He added: “The N500,000 that was emplaced was not being respected, it was not effective in curtailing these things because somebody picking rumour and is going to the radio to announce that … come on, what are we dealing with?
“There has to be law enforcement in this country as it is happening with our citizens when they go outside the country.”